Damir's Feed
Apr 18, 2013
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Dark side of the festival

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Bangkok, Thailand

By Damir Sagolj

Totally unconcerned with incoming traffic, Khun Tuey powers the ambulance van through Bangkok’s narrow streets as fast as its engine can push it. Soon after the chase started, the pointer on the speedometer kisses the 120 mark and for a short moment I take my eyes off the road to look around. Next to the driver sits his beautiful, four month pregnant wife Amarin, ignoring what passes by the windshield as if she is watching a session of Bulgarian parliament on TV. To the left is Somat, a medic with 110 hours of training – the team’s expert for injuries. His eyes are closed and it looks like he is sleeping. I hope he is praying. Tonight, we all need prayers to come true.

It is the crazy wet Songkran, as the week-long Thai New Year is known. Earlier in the day, we all enjoyed the festival – I sprayed water, wore powder on my face, drank beer and played fool with friends.

Mar 26, 2013
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Recharging the mystical powers

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Wat Bang Phra, Thailand

By Damir Sagolj

A devotee with a small zoo of animals tattooed on his body speeds toward the large statue of the Big Master, jumping over others and making unusual sounds and gestures. A volunteer standing in his way is big but fortunately very quick to stop the frantic run before a man crashes into the stage. A tattooed man bounces off the volunteer’s huge body, wakes-up from the trance and calmly goes back into the crowd. The air-bag volunteer turns to his colleagues and, as if nothing special is happening, comments in the ultra-cool manner of Bud Spencer (remember the Banana Joe movie?) “It is hot today. Very hot.”

And it’s hot indeed. It’s the beginning of the Thai summer. Only a few hours after the sunrise, the temperature is over 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit). It is also abnormally humid. However, people who came to Wat Bang Phra today don’t really care for such banal things as heat and humidity – they are here for a higher cause.

Feb 22, 2013
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How to survive in the jungle: a drop of cobra blood with Khun Norris

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Chon Buri province, Thailand

By Damir Sagolj

“Gentlemen, that was excellent!” said a young American called Richard as he downed a glass of snake’s blood in a room full of cobras and tough-looking Asian men. “Never refuse the invitation, never resist the unfamiliar.”

But those lines come from a movie called The Beach, and Richard was played by Leonardo DiCaprio. A few days ago, another young American, this time a real-life U.S. Marine training in Thailand, told Reuters what cobra’s blood really tasted like. “Terrible. Really terrible. But it’s a good experience. It’s something I can always tell my grandchildren about.”

Dec 20, 2012
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Living under sharia

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Banda Aceh, Indonesia

By Damir Sagolj

A siren rips apart the silence at the tsunami memorial in Aceh. A short announcement follows, after a greeting in Arabic and blessing from God – everyone is to leave the site immediately. It is time for prayers and the memorial built around a huge ship stranded miles inland during the 2004 tsunami will soon close its gates. Visitors are leaving the site, expected to go to nearby mosque and pray.

I’ve been watching different groups silently walking through the gates – students, business-like people, families and tourists – few went praying. Others were more interested in small shops selling souvenirs and in their pictures being taken. Some stood behind the memorial’s fence, smoked a cigarette and then just boarded their buses.

Oct 29, 2012
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Burnt under the sun

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By Damir Sagolj

(WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT)

The bottom picture is of a dead man killed by who-knows-who and left alone in the desert. I shot this image almost ten years ago from atop a U.S. Marines tank speeding towards Baghdad.

It immediately got lost, the photo itself, amongst others illustrating what would be celebrated as the liberation of a country from a tyrant. Other images of fighting and those of U.S. soldiers doing this and that played well in the papers. Somewhere near Nassiriya, this man was left forgotten to rot under the desert sun — and on our hard drives.

Oct 24, 2012
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Vegetarian Festival in Phuket: Cutting out the meat

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By Damir Sagolj

In front of me stood what must have been the most beautiful “god’s” body in the whole of Phuket. Her gentle pink robe swayed above bare feet as she made her way in a trance through the crowd of devotees at the Chinese Jui Tui shrine. And her pretty face was pierced with a long spike, a piece of fruit stuck on its end.

This woman was a “mah song”, roughly translated from the Thai language as “entranced horse” or “one whose body is used by gods as a vehicle”. She was the centre of attention for a good reason. For the day, she represented a god whose powers would help purify members of the community and wash away any bad karma.

Oct 10, 2012

Bye bye “bikepoo”: New era of transport dawns on Myanmar

YANGON (Reuters) – Holy water is sprinkled over a new Honda sub-compact festooned with flowers and red ribbons.

For more than a century, owners of ox-drawn carts, World War Two-era trucks and decrepit buses have descended on the Shwe Nyaung Pin Nat Shrine under a banyan tree in Myanmar’s biggest city to bless one of the world’s oldest vehicle fleets, dominated by Japanese rust-buckets from the 1980s or older.

Oct 10, 2012
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Coffin, sweet coffin

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By Damir Sagolj

Just around the corner from where Blade Runner met Bruce Lee, in the neighborhood where Hong Kong’s millions are made, 24 people live their lives in coffins. They call it home – but they’re only 6 by 3 feet wooden boxes, nicknamed coffins and packed into a single room to make more money for the rich.

SLIDESHOW: LIVING IN COFFINS

In a crazy chase for more dollars, landlords in the island city are building something unthinkable in the rest of the world – a beehive for people collected from the margins of society. Math is a rat; pitiless and brutal. Twenty-four times 1450 Hong Kong dollars a month is more than anyone would pay for this just over 500 square feet room.

Jun 6, 2012
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Voices of Myanmar refugees

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By Damir Sagolj

“It was raining for days before she came, then rain stopped. She has super powers,” Poe Suter Toe, an ethnic Karen refugee said. Indeed, the monsoon rain started again the moment Aung San Suu Kyi left Mae La, the biggest refugee camp at the Thailand-Myanmar border. Its 50,000 people, refugees from all across the country, better known as Burma, remain behind razor wire surrounding the camp in mountains.

A day after, I crossed inside the camp one more time to ask people about Mother Suu’s visit. What do they think about it? Can she change the country? Can she help them?

May 31, 2012

Feature: In Myanmar, stigma and neglect add to HIV misery

YANGON (Reuters) – The mother and child who touch hands in an overcrowded Yangon hospice are not family, but their tragic history begins in the blood.

Jam, 42, a mother of six, and Kanama, aged 2, are both HIV positive. Abandoned by their families, they must now find comfort in each other, although Jam still yearns for her husband to return to the private HIV hospice in the suburbs of Myanmar’s biggest city.

    • About Damir

      "Born in Sarajevo in 1971. Damir joined Reuters as a staff photographer in 1997. He has covered major events in the Balkans, Middle East and Americas and is currently chief photographer in Thailand. Damir was in the Bosnian army for five years and worked for the Paris-based Sipa press agency as their Bosnian photographer. The opinions expressed are his own."
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